If there’s one thing that all of us will most definitely not miss once this pandemic is officially and blessedly over, it’s, well, everything. But in that number will be the sight of slightly out-of-focus celebrities attempting to time their late-night chit chat to the inevitable lag and stutter of socially distant Zoom calls. Sure, we do get to see just where in their palatial homes famous folks choose to stage their beamed-in talk show appearances, but no amount of set-dressed knick-knacks or nonchalantly spotlighted smart person books can really keep the by-now ubiquitous remote interview from looking like all the others.
You know, unless you’re Helen Mirren, and you decide to sit back in a luxurious bubble bath while doing the rounds promoting your role slumming delightedly in the latest Fast And Furious film. That’s where the Emmy, Tony, and Oscar winner chose to sit back and field questions from a giggly Jimmy Fallon on Thursday, explaining serenely that she might as well speak from her “favorite place in the world.” Now, first of all, it does look like a truly spectacular tub, nice and deep, with a chocolate marble rim, pot of pink orchids by her head, and a fluffy-looking towel rolled carefully at the ready. And if Dame Helen wants to tease Fallon (and us) by saying she’s “running out of bubbles,” as she demurely fluffs up the ridge of obscuring suds under her chin, well, that’s Dame Helen for you.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks to being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon while in your tub. For one thing, the sound of Fallon calling the legendary thespian “Bud,” is akin to biting into a lovely burrito and discovering a stray piece of tin foil. But, still, Mirren placidly soldiered on, telling the Tonight Show host how she’d begged, moaned, whined, and even “cried a little bit” in order to get F9 paterfamilias Vin Diesel to let her shift gears in his big-cars-go-vroom franchise. (Hey, Diesel likes a Dame classing up the joint.) Plus, as Mirren delighted in relating, she’s had a long and eventful career doing things even odder than exchanging banter with Vin Diesel while performing a pit maneuver in front of Buckingham Palace, as the requisite F9 clip showed her delightedly doing. (This is Mirren’s third F&F go-’round, so Diesel finally let Mirren drive a damn car.)
Bringing along a pair of memorable real-life confrontations to her soapy guest appearance, Mirren first reacted to Fallon showing the widely gawked-at clip of the international treasure sternly telling off a curious and very real black bear outside the Lake Tahoe home she shares with her husband, the thoroughly fortunate director Taylor Hackford. In the clip, Mirren starts out, as would most of us, anxiously tapping the glass door through which the curious bear in clearly contemplating entering—and then opens the door to order the enormous creature, in her most commanding tone, “Go on, bear. Naughty bear.” (The bear left, thankfully, looking appropriately chastened.)
Well, bears are one thing, but Mirren also shared the perhaps more unpredictably perilous occasion when she was forced to tell a “completely blasted” Keith Moon that, actually, it probably wasn’t a good idea for The Who drummer to accompany Mirren onstage for the finale of her long ago, Janis Joplin-inspired London musical theater performance. Telling Fallon that infamous partier and bearishly capricious Moon appeared “out of a rubbish bin that he’d fallen into” (which sounds pretty bearlike, honestly) to bang on her dressing room door, Mirren expressed some regret that, this time, she didn’t let the interloper just come in to do whatever he was going to do onstage alongside her to close out that night’s performance of David Hare’s Teeth ’N’ Smiles. Sadly, 1975 Helen Mirren was “very English” about the whole thing, telling Moon, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Which is a lot more polite than simply shouting, “Naughty Moon! Off with you.”